Saturday, February 26, 2011

Inside Kerrville's Ice House on Water Street

I found a photo in my files today I'd forgotten about, a single photo I took during one of my explorations of the old Ice House on Water Street.  The building we call the "Ice House" was once one of the two mills in the 800 block of Water Street, there near the T-intersection of Water and Washington streets.
It's not a great photo -- in those days we took a photo, waited to fill up a roll of film, took it to the drug store to be developed, waited a few days, went and got our prints.  None of this digital-camera-silliness, where you can take a picture and look at it in a fraction of a second.  I do wish I could find additional photos taken during that foray into the old building and its tunnels.
Click on image to enlarge
Interior, Ice House, Kerrville, probably taken in the mid-1990s
The Mill Dam, with the Ice House in the center, Kerrville, before its partial demolition.
Yes, there are tunnels extending from the main room of the Ice House toward Water Street.  I remember two large rooms off of the tunnel; one was completely caved in, the other was still open, but, sadly, empty. (No treasure!)
When I was a boy, it was easy to get into the old building -- there was a large opening on the upstream side -- but this was welded up years ago.  If it ever opens up again, I'm back in there -- this time with more equipment to measure and photograph the place.


  1. theres a hole just to the right at the bottom of the steps from the pavillion. Is that one of the tunnels?

  2. YaaaaaHooooo!!!!!!!!

    Thank you, Joe. Thank you for posting that old photo.

    I too went inside the Ice Plant's underground rooms (many, many years ago). I remember round concrete columns, however, this photo shows square and round columns (I'm old, so I'm allowed to forget some things :).

    At the time, only the main underground room was open. About twenty feet in, the tunnel was boarded up. While I desperately wanted to go further into the tunnel, I didn't dare pull down that board wall.

    Oh, how I would love to be allowed to tour those underground chambers once more.

    Also, I would love to see other photos of the Ice Plant, inside and out.

    Surely someone once took photos of the Ice Plant while it was still standing, or perhaps when it was being torn down.

    Because Mr. Dick Eastland owned the Ice Plant, I wonder if his descendants might have old photos that they would loan to Joe.

    It would be wonderful to see those photos displayed on this blog.

    Again, thank you Joe for posting this photo.

    You have made my day.

  3. On the concrete wall, you can see where one of the old window-type openings has been bricked up.

  4. On the top, right hand side of the square column, you can see what might be a bolt.

    If it is a bolt, I wonder what structure or mechanism it held in place.

  5. The light that is shining inside the underground room may be coming in from an opening on the back side of the Ice Plant.

    If so, that means the tunnel would be just to the left of the square column.

  6. When the Ice Plant was demolished, an article that described the demolition was written in the Kerrville Daily Times, or Mountain Sun.

    The article stated that a millstone was found inside the underground room.

    I wonder what happened to that millstone.

    I also wonder if anything else was found.

  7. In the second photo, you can see the red brick building that was part of the mill and later, part of the Ice Plant.

    To the left (photographer's left) you can see another building.

    When the Ice Plant existed, that building to the left was the location of the Ice Plant's cooling tower.

    The ice vaults were cooled by ammonia gas that was piped throughout all the vaults. There were large pumps in an underground engine room that housed the pumps.

    While being pumped throughout the pipes, the gas became very hot. To cool the gas, the pipes were routed through the cooling tower.

    The cooling tower was a very large, open air type structure. Rather than having solid walls, it had slats. The slats allowed the wind to blow through the structure.

    In addition, there were water pipes running across the top of the cooling tower. The water pipes sprayed water downward toward the ammonia gas pipes.

    The combination of the wind blowing through the slats and the water pipes spraying a constant stream of water onto the ammonia pipes cooled the ammonia.

    The ammonia cooling system was a continuous loop, so the engine room pumps were always pumping the gas.

    It was a very dangerous operation, but totally fascinating.

  8. A better description of the underground engine room is that it was actually built on the side of the river bluff.

    However, the roof of the engine room was at street/ground level.

    So, to enter the engine room, you had to walk down a staircase. Going downstairs gave the impression that you were going underground.

  9. There was one wall that was shared by the underground engine room and the underground rooms that were directly below the red brick building (the underground room that is in the photo that Joe posted today).

    On that shared wall, in the engine room, was a large arched doorway. The doorway was bricked up.

    I was told that the underground doorway used to lead directly into the underground room that is in Joe's photo.

    However, years later when I explored the underground room that is shown in today's posting I didn't see that bricked up doorway.

    At least, I don't remember seeing that bricked up doorway (I saw it in the old engine room years before).

    It is very confusing to me that the doorway could be seen from the engine room side of the wall, but could not be seen from the underground room side of the wall.

    Perhaps the bricked up doorway could be seen from the underground room side of the wall, and I just don't remember seeing it.

    It's an enigma!

  10. When the Ice Plant was still open for business, I was given the opportunity to ride the old elevator from the street level to the underground rooms.

    However, that elevator was so old and dilapidated that I didn't trust it. It even had large holes in the floor where the metal had rusted away.

    Now, I wish that I had taken that elevator ride. I missed a great opportunity.

  11. At the far end of the Ice Plant was the office.

    In the office were two large wooden desks.

    One of the desks belonged to Mr. Eastland and one belonged to the Ice Plant's Manager (Mr. Morgan).

    Both desks had large wooden desk chairs. I remember that both chairs were very squeaky.

    On top of Mr. Eastland's desk were ink blotters, many, many ink blotters. Most of them had cartoons printed on one side.

    The cartoons were usually about two characters named Zeke and Zeb. They lived in the backwoods. Each blotter had Zeke or Zeb commenting on one thing or the other. They were very funny.

  12. The office was actually divided into two rooms.

    The desks were in the back room.

    Also, in the office backroom, were two safes. One safe was short and the other was tall.

    After the combination was worked on the tall safe, the door could be opened. However, inside the tall safe was a second steel door.

    The inside door had to be opened with a key. It was a very strangely shaped key.

    I own that key, or at least one of them. Probably, more than one of those keys existed.

  13. There were three ice vaults on the ground level.

    One was the main vault that was used every day.

    The second was the deer storage vault. It could have been used to store ice in, but was never utilized in that way, since it was used for game storage during hunting season.

    The third vault was a very small one directly in front of the red brick building. It was used to store watermelons during melon season.

    Every summer, the Ice Plant sold a variety of melon called "Black Diamond" Watermelons. They had such a sweet taste to them.

  14. By the time that Mr. Eastland sold the Ice Plant to Lone Star Ice and Food, local ice plants were on their way out.

    Businesses and homes had their own ice makers, so ice plants weren't really needed anymore, except for bagged ice that was sold in convenience stores.

    Lone Star Ice and Food stopped producing ice in Kerrville, and instead shipped ice from their plant in San Antonio.

    The Kerrville Ice Plant was a very large commercial operation. However, with today's technology, the same amount of ice that the Ice Plant produced can now be produced in an ice maker that is about the size of a large refrigerator.

  15. There were many things stored in the top of the red brick building, including old brass National Cash Registers.

    I wish that I had lived in Kerrville when the Ice Plant was torn down. If I had, I would have bought those old registers.

  16. In the bottom photo you can see at least two wooden posts and a cross bar connecting the vertical posts (forefront of the photo).

    Those very posts still existed until the 1970's.

    Kerrville had a flood sometime around 1978/79.

    I believe the flood washed those posts away.

  17. Because one of the underground rooms caved in, I wonder how safe it is to stand on the lookout site up above the room.

    Also, how safe is it to drive in the parking lot that was built above the underground rooms?

  18. Joe once posted a photo that showed
    Mr. J. E. Grinstead sitting on a rock wall that had been built below the old mill.

    If you look at the bottom photo above, you can just barely see that same wall.

  19. It's amazing how that wooden dam stood as long as it did. Over the years, I wonder how many times it washed away and had to be rebuilt.

  20. Joe, please let us know if that underground room is ever again opened to the public.

    I want to go inside it, take pictures, and explore.

  21. Does anyone know in what year the underground rooms and tunnels were built?

  22. Perchance, does the Court House have drawings of the floor plans for each of the Ice Plant buildings?

  23. I wonder why the Blue Bonnet Hotel and the Ice Plant buildings were demolished.

    I don't like to see old buildings destroyed. I'd rather see them refurbished and given new reasons for existing.

    Years ago I was told that the mark of a good dentist is one who will try to save a damaged tooth rather than pull it.

    I believe the same philosophy should apply to old buildings (if possible) - don't tear it down - refurbish it.

  24. Was grain stored in the underground rooms?

  25. The second photo is such a pleasing scene.

  26. Were there electric lights in the underground rooms and tunnels?

  27. Where was the entrance to the underground rooms?

  28. Years ago when I went into the Ice Plant's underground rooms, they seemed so eerie.

    However, looking at the photo above, they seem less threatening.

    I would like to go back into the underground chambers.

  29. What happened to all the bricks from the Ice Plant's Red Brick Building when it was demolished?

    I have one of them, but what happened to the others?

  30. Does anyone know how the underground tunnels and rooms were built?

    Was the soil excavated the same way that a home's basement is created?

    Were the holes dug out, the concrete poured, and once dried, it was covered with soil?

    Surely the rooms and tunnels were not created the same way that a mineshaft is built.

    Any ideas?

  31. In the second photo you can just make out the remnants of the first mill turbine.

  32. It's interesting how most old photos of the Ice Plant's red brick building show two levels of windows boarded up, but the top level is open.

  33. Does anyone know which company was hired to demolish the Ice Plant?

    That company should have many photos of the Ice Plant (interior and exterior photos).

    Perhaps they would loan them to Joe.


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